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CEO Update – May 3, 2023

May 3, 2023

Welcome to May! We are closing in on another awesome LA Fleet Week. It will run from May 23rd through May 29th, 2023, thanks in large part to the dedication of our crew and partners.  

LA Fleet Week is the largest event that our organization participates in annually. Much of the crew is focused on the planning efforts and involved in a wide range of activities including a disaster preparedness exercise, logistics and load-in, food and beverage coordination, exhibitor outreach and planning, entertainment and competitions, neighborhood activations, leadership programs, education outreaches, veterans’ exhibits, receptions, and more. Our primary responsibility is on the public outreach component of LA Fleet Week.

LA Fleet Week is no small feat. The lead-up to it is exhilarating and the event annually is a component of our core mission as a community platform.

Unfortunately, despite the crew’s passion for focusing on reaching our annual goals and other objectives, LA Fleet Week also slows our progress during April and May. The costs associated with Fleet Week are significant and the exhibitor fees and sponsorships far from cover the actual costs of the event. We have never made a donor appeal for Fleet Week before, but via this week’s update, I respectfully request your financial support towards our organization’s costs for LA Fleet Week.

The impact that LA Fleet Week has on visiting service members, youth, parents, veterans, voters, and the community are significant. LA Fleet Week would not be in existence in its current form without our beloved battleship, the IOWA. A few specific impacts of LA Fleet Week include:

  • Military activations, outreach, band performances, and volunteering in 5 different City of Los Angeles Council Districts and 2 Orange County cities
  • We touch more than 215,000 people annually with over 65,000 of them visiting the footprint at the Battleship IOWA to engage with service members, enjoy entertainment and competitions, visit with our crew, and spend a day on the LA Waterfront
  • About 10,000 of these visitors purchase tickets to visit the Battleship IOWA annually
  • It is the busiest week for San Pedro area restaurants and businesses. In many cases, it makes their year. This boost ultimately results in a better quality of life for area residents and a more vibrant community
  • Disaster planning and exercises that strengthen the Los Angeles region and make it more resilient when facing a crisis. Our team is involved in the coordination and planning of these activities
  • Leadership programs that bring together like-minded individuals from private and public industry to discuss topics of critical interest including employee recruiting and retention, maritime strategy and policy, and education. These programs build knowledge and fortitude in addressing issues head on in the future

These are just a few of the impacts of LA Fleet Week. We hope that you see value in LA Fleet Week to our organization, community, and country. Please consider a donation to support our costs today.

LA Fleet Week is a component of our strategy to engage the public and is a continuation of our vision and goal to broaden the audience interested in the Battleship IOWA, Surface Navy Museum, sea services, and ultimately our nation. In numerous emails in the past, I have mentioned the evolving dynamics of society, changing generational interests, and our need to adapt by evolving into something different to survive into the future.

Lately, we have become aware of some rumblings from a minority of supporters who may object to some of these changes. I understand their concerns and objections, as what we’re doing is different from how museums have traditionally operated and in many ways changes the way a museum ship is presented or operates.

A USS IOWA veteran approached me, disturbed about the new museum space. He was concerned about the removal of bunks and wondered why we couldn’t simply display the ship without modifications. 

A valid concern, and I am confident he is not alone it.

My answer is simple. Our longevity is dependent on maintaining the ship. That requires revenue, and revenue is generated by visitors and donors alike. 

Battleship aficionados (like myself) are a nominal percentage of the American population and unfortunately so are veterans. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, less than ½ of 1% of the American population is serving and the Census Bureau reports approximately 7% is veterans. That leaves 92.5% of the population which hasn’t served our nation in the armed forces and based on other surveys, the vast majority have limited to no experience with our Navy, let alone a battleship.

If we are going to ensure that the IOWA remains sustainable into the future we must think and act differently. To remain an untouched relic of a past generation, we would need a $250 million (or more) endowment. Without this endowment, we must find a way to target a larger audience and make a greater impact to ensure that the ship remains relevant and floating well into the future.

This motivation is what drives our board and leadership team to zero in on the strategy for the future and the vision of the Surface Navy Museum. A balanced approach of utilizing excess space (i.e. bunk areas) and leaving unique historic spaces such as the Captain’s Cabin or CEC programmed but untouched, is an opportunity to focus on longevity and the future.

As we proceed in building the Surface Navy Museum, we will always respect the heritage of the IOWA, but will look for ways to activate the ship to create memorable experiences.

Food At Vicky's Doghouse

Please continue reaching out with your questions, feedback, and support. Feedback allows us a chance to provide more information and many times has helped us look at things from a different lens. We look forward to presenting the experience design to you in the coming months, as it formulates into something dynamic, exciting, and transformative for the future.

My appreciation for your support, advocacy, and donations. Have a great week!

Jonathan Williams
President & CEO

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NOTE: If you prefer not to donate electronically, please mail your check to:
Attention: Development Department, 250 S. Harbor Blvd., San Pedro, CA 90731

Thank you to our 2021 donors for their generosity and support. Want to know how your donations are making a difference? Check out our ANNUAL REPORT here.

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